Aaron Bostrom | 

How to Choose Ripe Pomegranates

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I’ll admit it—pomegranates used to intimidate me. Trying to figure out how to wrestle those seeds from the fruit can be confusing. But it was well worth learning how to do it! The seeds, also called arils, are delicious whether eaten fresh or cooked. The juice is also an amazing base for drinks, sweet dishes, savory meals and sauces. But pomegranates aren’t just tasty—they are also good for you! The fruit is full of minerals and antioxidants like polyphenols, potassium, fiber, vitamin C and vitamin K. Pomegranates are tastiest (and healthiest) when ripe. Here’s how to tell when a pomegranate is in its prime:

How to Pick a Pomegranate and Choose the Ripest One

  • Size it up: Check the size of your pomegranate. A ripe pomegranate will range anywhere from the size of an orange to that of a grapefruit. It should be slightly square in shape, which means the arils inside are pressing against the outer walls of the fruit and are nice and juicy. What if the pomegranate looks round like an apple? That means it’s unripe and you should toss it back. (Maybe don’t really toss it—you don’t want the stock boy to glare at you.)
  • Color is everything: The skin of a ripe pomegranate should be a bright or dark red. The darker and deeper the color, the sweeter your fruit will be. Lighter colors like pink or salmon usually indicate an underripe and tart fruit.
  • Check the crown: Look at the top of the fruit. If the little petal-shaped appendages at the top are turned slightly inward, your pomegranate is ripe and ready to eat.
  • Weigh in: A ripe pomegranate should feel heavier than it looks when you pick it up. This means it’s ripe and full of juice on the inside. In fact, the heavier the pomegranate feels, the more juice the arils in the inside will have. Weigh a few on the produce scale and pick the ones that are heaviest.
  • Give it a rub: Rub your finger over the surface of the pomegranate. The skin should be smooth and tight—it should never ripple or pucker when you rub it. Put the pomegranate back if you notice any cracks or blemishes, which means your fruit is probably past its prime.
  • Scratch test: Scratch the skin of the pomegranate using your fingernail. Is it difficult to do? Great! You’ve got a ripe pomegranate in your hands!

How to store

Pomegranates are a long lasting fruit—you can keep them in your refrigerator for up to six months! Want to store them even longer? Pop them into an airtight bag and store in the freezer for up to a year. Fresh pomegranate juice has a shorter shelf life—only two to three days in the refrigerator.

How to remove seeds

Pomegranates can seem intimidating, but it’s actually pretty easy to remove the seeds. Just cut the fruit in half, and hold one of the halves seed-side down over a big bowl. Smack the back of the fruit with a wooden spoon and those seeds should pop right out! You can also cut your pomegranate in half and soak it in water for five to ten minutes. Break it apart under the water, and the seeds will sink to the bottom of the bowl.

How to juice

Put the pomegranate seeds in a blender and pulse it a couple of time to break the seeds up. Allow it to settle for a few minutes and then pour the seeds through a strainer.

Recipe ideas

Sweet: When a sweet craving hits, try mixing pomegranate arils with yogurt, sprinkling arils on top of your favorite ice cream, or blending them up to make a pomegranate and cranberry bellini.

Savory: For a more savory twist, use pomegranates to make lamb chops with pomegranate relish or pomegranate chicken. Or, toss arils into your favorite salad.

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